My wife wandered over to the table we were holding last week at the Taste of Anaheim. “You've got to hear what this taco is,” she said. “Garlic herb shrimp, toasted cheese, habanero citrus salsa, crisp bacon, chipotle picante sauce, avocado, cilantro, onion and cotija.”
“What a hot mess,” I replied. “It sounds like someone's trying to reproduce Tacos Salceados. Who is it?”
Sure enough, when I went over to the booth, there was a line 50 deep, waiting for a cook who was desperately trying to make chicharrones de queso–cheese melted on a flat-top grill until it turns brown and crispy on one side–in sufficient quantity to satisfy the milling hordes. The idea was to re-create the taco salceado, the specialty of a Tijuana restaurant run by a master saucier. The taco salceado is your choice of ingredient rolled into a chicharrón de queso, thrown into a corn tortilla, then sauced with one of an array of outstanding, interesting, non-standard sauces.
It wasn't going well. The chicharrones kept sticking to the grill, ripping every time he tried to load the shrimp into them and fold it over. Finally, out of frustration, he passed the shrimp to one of the assemblers of tacos and started trying to flip the chicharrones onto tortillas, which caused both the cheese and the flatbread to rip. An older man was lecturing him from outside the fence, admonishing his ineptness. “Jóven, ¿ni siquiera sabes hacer un chicharrón de queso?” Don't you even know how to toast cheese, young man?
Rubio's, you get points for a valiant attempt to introduce America to the stunning wonder that is the taco salceado, but the execution was awful. Go find some quesillo–it makes reliably wonderful chicharrón de queso even on my own home griddle–and send a bunch of your cooks down to the La Mesa neighborhood of Tijuana to study the real thing.